George Patrick McDonnell, 1938-2022

George Patrick McDonnell died peacefully on Saturday, August 6th 2022 in Leesburg, Virginia, holding his daughter’s hand and knowing he was loved deeply by his wife, family and friends. He was 84.

George was born July 26th, 1938 in Detroit, Michigan. He attended Catholic Central High School, served in the U.S. Navy, and graduated from the University of Detroit with a degree in economics. He was President of the College Republicans, a member of Young Americans for Freedom, and later worked on Barry Goldwater’s Presidential campaign where he forged lifelong friendships that led him from Michigan to Washington, DC.

He and his business partner, Dan Burns, started Diversified Mailing Services, which for a time was one of the largest mailing firms on the East Coast.

He founded and was Chairman of the Irish Heritage Society of America, which helped drive the development of the Dunbrody Famine Ship and Irish Emigrant Museum in New Ross, Ireland. Immensely humble, he was at heart an intellectual and his influence will continue on through his work, personal relationships, and his spoken and written words. He was a member of Bay View Association in Michigan where he will be remembered sitting on the front porch of the “Wee Hoose” chatting away or reading the newspaper. Leaning on his Irish roots, he was at his happiest hosting a meal with friends and family, where he always welcomed new faces to sit at the table and join the conversation. George – or Pops – was a man who laughed often and hard, sometimes uncontrollably wheezing, creating contagious laughter around him. He won the respect of numerous intelligent people, children adored him, and teenagers and young adults consulted and trusted him.

George maintained his spirit, cadence, and optimism throughout his life. He loved finding beauty in the world, especially in the gardens of his home Ridge Oaks and Up North. He was a good and moral man who left the world a better place through those he loved and the many he helped along the way. George’s life was a successful life, by any measure.

He is survived by his wife of 16 years, Judith McDonnell, his brother Joseph (Maryann), sisters Marianne Nestor (Robert) and Peachie Fraust (Gary), his two children Patrick McDonnell and Jeanne Zarate (Alfredo) and their mother Elizabeth Skinner, his stepdaughter Mary Robertson (Reid), his three grandsons (AJ, Patrick, and Paul Zarate), four step-grandchildren (William, Armstrong, Blake, and Brooks) and a large extended family. He was preceded in death by his parents William F. McDonnell and Virginia Marie Kirchner, and by his brother William McDonnell.

He will be deeply missed.

A visitation for George was held at Colonial Funeral Home in Leesburg, Virginia on Thursday evening, August 11th, from 6-8 PM. A funeral service to celebrate his life was held Friday, August 12th at Leesburg Community Church at 11 AM followed by his burial at Ivy Hill Cemetery in Alexandria, VA at 1:30 PM.

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